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    Marine life returning to Green Harbor River

    Humans have controlled the flow of Marshfield’s Green Harbor River for centuries. In the 1800s, at the behest of farmers who wanted more grazing land, a dike was built to limit how much tidal water flowed upstream into the river.

    It was the beginning of a slow loss of habitat as the river’s salt and oxygen dropped. But recently, plant and animal species that sharply declined or disappeared are returning. From tiny invertebrates to clams and fish, the marine life is coming back.

    Worms that live in the sediment have been observed on the upstream side of the dike in the last two years. Environmental officials have found six species of worm and five species of amphipod, a diminutive crustacean.


    The fish are coming back, too. Species found in the river in the last two years include Atlantic silverside, banded and striped killifish, flounder, northern pipefish, sculpin, and tautog. Officials have also recorded soft shell clams, various species of crab and shrimp, snails, sea grapes, and barnacles, as well as plants that thrive in salt marshes.

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    Found in the Green Harbor River in 2010 and 2011:


    Carcinus maenas - green crab

    Crangon septemspinosa -


    sevenspine bay shrimp

    Dolichopodid larva - long-legged fly

    Fundulus diaphanus - banded killifish

    Fundulus heteroclitus - mummichog

    Fundulus majalis - striped killifish


    Gasterosteus aculeatus - threespine stickleback

    Hemigrapsus sanguineus - Asian shore crab

    Molgula - sea grapes

    Mya arenaria - softshell clam

    Pagarus longicarpus - longclawed hermit crab

    Palaemonetes vulgaris - marsh grass shrimp

    Palaemonetes pugio - daggerblade grass shrimp

    Illyanassa obsoleta - Eastern mudsnail

    Littorina littorea - common periwinkle

    Menidia menidia - Atlantic silverside

    Myoxocephalus - sculpin (species not identified)

    Syngnathus fuscus - Northern pipefish

    Tautoga onitis - tautog

    flounder (species not identified)

    6 species of worm

    5 species of amphipod



    Salicornia - a succulent found in salt marshes

    Spartina alterniflora -

    salt marsh cordgrass

    Sources: Sara Grady, Massachusetts Bays Program; Jason Burtner, Office of Coastal Zone Management.